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Patterson v. Patterson

United States District Court, W.D. New York

April 14, 2017

JOHN P. PATTERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOEL M. PATTERSON, Sergeant, Five Points Correctional Facility, SHARI L. KAMPNICH, Correctional Officer, Five Points Correctional, WILLIAM S. PALMER, Correctional Officer Five Points Correctional Facility, MATTHEW R. PIOTROWSKI, Correctional Officer, Five Points Correctional Facility, JOANNE L. SPRINGER, Facility Nurse, Five Points Correctional Facility, and GRAIGE GOODMAN, Captain at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff John P. Patterson ("Plaintiff) is currently incarcerated at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility ("Great Meadow C.F.") under the custody and control of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"). He filed this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 pertaining to events that occurred at the Five Points Correctional Facility ("Five Points C.F.") and Great Meadow C.F. (Dkt. 1). He also has moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Dkt. 2), for the appointment of counsel (Dkt. 3) and to be provided a copy of the complaint and attached exhibits (Dkt. 7; Dkt. 10).

         For the following reasons, Plaintiffs motion to proceed in forma pauperis is granted, Plaintiffs motion for the appointment of counsel is denied without prejudice, and Plaintiffs motions to be provided a copy of the complaint are granted.

         Additionally, the Court has reviewed Plaintiffs complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A. Plaintiffs claims alleging a violation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act ("PREA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 15601 et seq., a false Misbehavior Report, and a due process violation must be dismissed. Plaintiff will be provided leave to file an amended complaint curing the defects with his false Misbehavior Report claim, as described below.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that in the early morning hours of November 23, 2013, after he had returned to Five Points C.F. from the Cayuga Medical Center-where he had been sent for an examination because he had swallowed part of his eyeglasses following an incident where a correctional officer had falsely accused him of pulling down his pants- he was placed in an isolation room and physically and sexually assaulted by Defendants Sergeant Joel M. Patterson ("Patterson"), and Correctional Officers Shari L. Kampnich ("Kampnich"), William S. Palmer ("Palmer") and Matthew R. Piotrowski ("Piotrowski"). (Dkt. 1 at ¶¶ 25-40).

         According to the complaint, as Plaintiff was led into the isolation room, he was violently pushed from behind by Patterson and tripped by Kampnich. (Id. at ¶ 25). At the time, he was in handcuffs, a waist chain, and leg shackles. (Id. at ¶ 26). After Plaintiff fell to the floor, he was repeatedly kicked and punched in the face, head, back, ribs, and legs by Patterson, Piotrowski, Kampnich, and Palmer. (Id. at ¶ 27-30). Plaintiff also claims that Palmer held him down by placing a knee on his face and that Kampnich said "[s]o you like showing your [penis]." (Id. at ¶ 36). Then Plaintiffs underwear was pulled down and one of the four Defendants placed a finger or some other small object into Plaintiffs anus several times. (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges that following the assault, he was examined by Nurse Joanne L. Springer ("Springer") and she simply "looked [him] up & down" and stated that Plaintiff "look[ed] fine." (Id. at ¶¶ 41-42). As Springer began to walk out of the exam room, Plaintiff advised Springer that he had just been sexually and physically assaulted and that his "back, head, and ribs hurt, " and that one of his molars had been knocked out of his mouth. (Id. at ¶ 43). Springer allegedly ignored him, stated "yeah, yeah, " and walked out. (Id.). Springer returned a few minutes later to look at his face, which had some dried blood on it, and gave Plaintiff a wet paper towel to wipe his face. (Id. at ¶ 44). Plaintiff asked Springer if she had reported his sexual assault complaint as required under PREA, but she ignored him. (Id. at ¶ 45).

         Later that morning, Plaintiff returned to the Cayuga Medical Center for an endoscopy to remove the part of the eyeglasses he had swallowed the previous evening. (Id. at ¶ 46). Plaintiff advised the medical professionals at Cayuga Medical Center about what had occurred at Five Points C.F. (id.), and they told him that his allegations had been reported to the New York State Police and the Inspector General's Office (id. at ¶ 47). Plaintiff underwent a "sexual assault nurse exam." (Id. at ¶ 49). Following the endoscopy, Plaintiff returned to Five Points C.F. and was placed on suicide watch and a camera order, where he remained until December 20, 2013, at which time he was transferred to the Central New York Psychiatric Center ("CNYPC") for three months. (Id. at ¶¶ 51-52). Following his requested release from CNYPC, he was transferred to Great Meadow C.F. in February 2014. (Id. at ¶ 52).

         Upon Plaintiffs transfer to Great Meadow C.F., Plaintiff filed a grievance on February 20, 2014, related to the November 23, 2013, incident. (Id. at ¶¶ 52-53). He claims this was the first opportunity he had to file such a grievance. (Id. at ¶ 52). The grievance was denied as untimely. (Id. at ¶54; see, e.g., Dkt. 1-8 at 2). Plaintiff followed up with DOCCS's Inmate Grievance Program Director, Karen Bellamy, who advised Plaintiff that his allegations were being investigated by the Inspector General's Office. (Dkt. 1-11 at 4).

         Shortly after arriving at Great Meadow C.F., Plaintiff was served with a misbehavior report regarding the incident at Five Points C.F., which charged him with a number of inmate rules violations, including assault on staff and violent conduct. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 65). Plaintiff claims that this report, along with other reports filed by Palmer, Patterson, Kampnich, and Piotrowski-a Use of Force report and an Unusual Incident report-were falsified in order to cover up Defendants' conduct. (Id. at ¶ 64).

         Defendant Captain Graige Goodman ("Goodman") was designated to conduct the Tier III Superintendent's hearing into the Misbehavior Report. (Id. at ¶ 61). The hearing commenced sometime in March 2014, and Plaintiff claims that Kampnich's testimony at the hearing was inconsistent with the various reports filed in relation to the incident and, when he tried to question her about the inconsistencies, Goodman interfered with Plaintiffs questioning and, at some point, refused to allow any additional questions. (Id. at ¶¶ 66-74). At that point, Goodman stated that there would be no further questioning of Kampnich and he hung up the telephone, thereby ending the testimony. (Id. at ¶¶ 75-76). Plaintiff then accused Goodman of covering up the November 23, 2013, incident, at which time Goodman adjourned the hearing and stated he (Goodman) would call additional witnesses the following day. (Id. at ¶¶ 77-78).

         Two weeks passed without further proceedings. (Id. at ¶ 79). Plaintiff thereafter asked Goodman about the status of the hearing. (Id. at ¶ 80). Goodman advised Plaintiff that the Misbehavior Report was going to be dismissed due to inconsistencies between Kampnich's testimony and the written report of the incident. (Id. at ¶ 81). Upon request, Goodman said he would provide Plaintiff with a copy of the hearing disposition and the hearing tape number. (Id. at ¶82). Plaintiff never received either. (Mat ¶83). Plaintiff does not include any allegation that he was subjected to discipline on account of the Misbehavior Report.

         On March 27, 2016, while incarcerated at Attica Correctional Facility ("Attica C.F."), Plaintiff filed a request under New York's Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") asking for the hearing disposition and tape, along with the Misbehavior Report, the Use of Force Report, and the Unusual Incident Report. (Id. at ¶ 85). Plaintiff filed a grievance on April 14, 2016, complaining that Attica C.F.'s FOIL office failed to respond to his request. (Id. at ¶ 86). Plaintiff received a response to the grievance only and was told that Attica C.F.'s FOIL Officer had reported that there were no documents responsive to Plaintiffs request. (Id. at ¶ 87; see, e.g., Dkt. 1-15 at 4). Plaintiff claims that this response establishes that the hearing information has "vanished, " presumably in an attempt to cover up the incident of November 23, 2013. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 90).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Plaintiff*s Motion for Leave to File In Forma Pauperis

Plaintiffs affirmation of poverty has been reviewed in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Plaintiff has met the statutory requirements for in forma pauperis status, and therefore, permission to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.

         II. Plaintiffs Complaint

         A. Standard of Review

         Sections 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b) of Title 28 of the United States Code require the Court to conduct an initial screening of this complaint. The Court must dismiss the complaint or any portion of the complaint that is "frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b); see, e.g., 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) (requiring the court to dismiss any claim which "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief). "An action is 'frivolous' for § 1915(e) purposes if it has no arguable basis in law or fact." Montero v. Travis, 171 F.3d 757, 759 (2d Cir. 1999).

         In evaluating the complaint, a court must accept as true all of the plaintiffs factual allegations, and must draw all inferences in the plaintiffs favor. See, e.g., Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003). Although "a court is obliged to construe [pro se] pleadings liberally, particularly when they allege civil rights violations, " McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004), evenpro se pleadings must meet the notice requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wynder v. McMahon, 360 F.3d 73, 79 n.ll (2d Cir. 2004) ("[T]he basic requirements of Rule 8 apply to self-represented and counseled plaintiffs alike.").

         "[A] district court should look with a far more forgiving eye in examining whether a complaint rests on a meritless legal theory for purposes of section [§ 1915(e)] than it does in testing the complaint against a Rule 12(b)(6) motion." Nance v. Kelly,912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d Cir. 1990). In determining whether a complaint survives a Rule 8 notice inquiry, the plaintiff need "only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "So long as the [in forma pauperis} plaintiff raises a cognizable claim, dismissal on the basis of ...


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